zain Farmer

Zain Farmer, 17, grapples during a jiu-jitsu match.

MANSFIELD -- Zain Farmer is just a teenager, but already a world champion jiu-jitsu fighter.

The muscular, 6-foot-3, 189-pound Mansfielder competed at the highest level of competition for the sport, winning against opponents in their 30s and 40s.

"You've got to be insane to stand-in against someone who is going to hit you," the 17-year-old Zain said, "but it's a lot of fun."

Zain fought in Orlando, Florida against other American teams and a team from Great Britain to take the top spot in August.

"Everyone he went up against were black belts," his mother, Nora said. "He's a purple belt. That's two ranks lower. That's a big deal that he managed to beat everybody else."

Zain said he felt a little pressure due to his opponent's credentials, but after winning his first match, he calmed down and was confident.

"That's where everything got settled for me," he said. "The jitters went down, I could move a little lighter and muscle memory kind of kicked in."

Zain, a homeschooled junior, started training in jiu-jitsu at age 9. He has put in an estimated 1,500 hours in preparation for his victories at the world championships. He said on average he goes to his Dojo, Team Chitwood Martial Arts, located at 314 E. Main Street in Lexington, six times a week.

"And you're just scratching the surface in the world of jiu-jitsu," Zain said. "There are black belts who have been doing this for 25, 30 years."

Most youth athletes who play sports give up or try a new sport, but for Zain, martial arts gave him enough to come back, year after year.

"I guess it was the people that I met," he said. "I didn't see it as jiu-jitsu or as karate or what it could mean for the rest of my life. I saw it as the people, and all the people I loved being around.

"It's a lot of fun for me and I started making friends, so it became social. Then it became everything else I wanted it to be. I looked forward to going."

Another factor for Zain was his instructor, Shawn Chitwood.

"When my father took me to the Chitwood's I finally saw a reason to be there. I could understand the purpose behind it."

Zain now helps teach the purpose of martial arts, working as an instructor. 

"He's very coachable," Chitwood said. "And it helps that he can absorb what we teach and relay it to others."

He sees his near future being dedicated for more combat.

"One of my goals after the World Cup competition is I'd like to get sponsors so not everything is coming out of pocket," he said. "I'd like to do right-to-wins, where two grapplers fight to win over a certain amount of time. Eventually, I think you can paid to do that. I'd like to do that.

"Those are my two next goals, and I'm extremely pumped about it."

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.